This Is It: Fantastic Five To Race for Title at Laguna Seca – INDYCAR
Five drivers for one very significant prize. Two hours of racing left in the 2022 season.
Let the final push for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship begin.
This weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca offers the kind of drama rarely seen in motorsports. There have only been a couple of occasions in this series’ history when so many competitors have had a last-race path to claim the prestigious Astor Challenge Cup. It has been 19 years since a race with this points structure saw five with such an opportunity.
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The individual storylines are dramatic, too. Another season title for Scott Dixon would tie A.J. Foyt’s all-time record (seven). Josef Newgarden will try to win his third series championship in six years, Will Power eyes the second title of his illustrious career.
Sure, Marcus Ericsson and Scott McLaughlin are long shots to walk away with the title, but nothing outside of a victory in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge would be sweeter than capturing their first series title. Fittingly, Ericsson etched his name on the Borg-Warner Trophy with the victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
This will be the 17th consecutive year that the title will be won on the season’s final day.
Said Dixon of the five-driver pursuit: “I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any (point) resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. It’s fun to be a part of.”
A look at five things to watch:
Power in Driver’s Seat
Let’s start with the standings and the scenarios in play to determine this year’s champion.
Power has the clearest path to the title, leading Newgarden and Dixon each by 20 points. He will win his first championship since 2014 if he finishes in the top three at Laguna Seca.
An important designation to remember is that Newgarden holds the tiebreaker over the rest based on being assured of finishing the season with the most race wins. The driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet has a career-best five race wins, two more than next-best McLaughlin. There have been three ties in the sport since 1999, with Juan Pablo Montoya crowned the champion that year over Dario Franchitti. In 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. had the tiebreaker on Dan Wheldon, and in 2015 it was Dixon getting the trophy after a points lockup with Montoya.
Unlike season finales from 2015-19, this is a single-points race, which means the most a driver can score is 54 points (50 points for the win, another point for winning the NTT P1 Award and two points for leading the most laps in the race). Leading even a single lap is worth a point, which is another thing to remember as teams consider when to have their driver pit. Power picked up a bonus point in Portland because his pit box was past the timing line when McLaughlin, the race leader, stopped in front of it.
Newgarden and Dixon can win the title by scoring 53 or 54 points and having Power finish no better than fourth. If they don’t win, it gets more complicated based on the point scale being top-heavy. If the highest of those two finished third without any bonus points factored in, they’d need Power …….